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Published Airpower Journal - Winter 1988

Theater Airlift 2010

Col Alexander P. Shine, USA

23 APRIL 2010

Dear Grandpa,
Well, I made it. Just like you told me, it was tough! But when the colonel pinned those silver wings on my chest today, I thought the buttons on my blouse would pop off. And I could feel Dad standing right beside me, with his chest pumped up just as high as mine.

But there's even better news--I got my orders yesterday, and would you believe it, I'm going to be flying C-130Ks! The "K" has been stretched a little bit and has a few more gadgets on it than you may remember. Basically, though, its the same beautiful old bird you flew in Vietnam and Dad flew when he won his Air Force Cross in the El Toro Valley.

Sorry you couldn't make it for the ceremony. Hope you're feeling better. Hi to Oma.


In case you haven't heard from Stan, he's got three weeks to go at Rucker, and he found out that he'll be flying Chinooks just like Uncle Terry and Great Uncle Jerry. Between the two of us, I doubt there is an airlift mission in the world that we Madoxes can't handle.

A LETTER like that would have to bring a lump to the throat of an old airlifter or even an old soldier, for that matter. It suggests that finally we did something right. Instead of continuing with the notion of "buy 'am, fly 'am, throw 'am away, and buy a new gadget," we decided to stick with a couple of old horses that are doing the job.

Good idea? Maybe, but maybe not. I think not. After more than 25 years using the C130 and CH-47 as their basic trash haulers, the Air Force and Army should seriously consider the possibility that the theater airlift fleet of the twenty-first century ought to have at least one or two new components. This article suggests what those components might be and some of the things we need to think about in deriving those components.

Many people in the Air Force, the Army, and the major aircraft industries have been working on the issue of future theater airlift for quite a few years. Most significant has been the combined work of the Military Airlift Command (MAC), Air Force Aeronautical Systems Division (ASD), and contractors from Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed, and the General Research Corporation, under the heading of Advanced Transport Technology Mission Analysis (ATTMA). The ATTMA study attempts both to define requirements and suggest technological possibilities for an advanced theater transport (ATT). The MAC-TRADOC ([Army] Training and Doctrine Command) Airlift Concepts and Requirements Agency (ACRA) published a study in 1965 that sought to generally define theater airlift requirements (though not much beyond the mid-1990s). The mammoth and long awaited Worldwide Intratheater Mobility Study (WIMS), cochaired by the Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), was published in February 1988 and for the first time provides analytically supported, gross, quantitative requirements for future theater airlift (along with other transport modes). On the Army side, the need for what has come to be termed the advanced cargo aircraft (ACA) has been recognized since the 1970s, and the first of many draft organization and operation plans for an ACA was completed by the Army's Aviation Center in May 1985.

The bottom line is that we have done a lot of research on the issue, there are many ideas out there, and it is now time to start sorting through the research and pulling those ideas together into some specific proposals. This article is such a proposal. I have borrowed heavily from the information in the various studies mentioned above, particularly the excellent work done by ASD and the civilian contractors in the ATTMA study.1 I have tried to bite the bullet and make decisions on tough trade-offs: "If I were CINCWORLD and had to make a decision based on what I know today, this is what I would do and why." I hope before too long a joint group will be tasked to take on this project officially, and when they do, this article might serve as a starting point.

Theater Airlift Missions

For clarity, we need a brief comment on what theater airlift does. What it does not do is fly across oceans, closing 10 divisions in Europe in 10 days. That is a job for strategic airlift. Theater airlift (sometimes called "tactical" or "intratheater" airlift) moves people and things within a theater of operations. Specifically, theater airlift moves forces and equipment to their initial employment locations (deployment); it then moves forces around within the theater (employment), moves supplies and personnel (sustainment), and evacuates casualties (aeromedical evacuation).

Theater airlift does all these things in support of both conventional and special operations forces (SOF). The unique nature of special operations, however, frequently requires special capabilities from airlift aircraft. This article focuses on airlift support for conventional operations, with some limited discussion of SOF needs.

Airlift aircraft have also been frequently used for nonairlift missions. These include use as command and control and electronic countermeasures platforms, gunships, spray aircraft, and vehicles for leaflet drops. Although it is good to keep some of these uses in the back of our minds during aircraft design, for the most part we should build an airlift fleet to do airlift. We can then adapt the aircraft to do other things as their capabilities allow. Consequently, these nonairlift missions will not be considerations in my discussion.

Before plunging into the design of specific aircraft, we need to lay some groundwork and make some assumptions. First, we should design an airlift fleet for the twenty-first century, not a single airlift aircraft. If we assume that there will be more than one sort of air vehicle involved in airlift, these vehicles should complement each other, and there should be little overlapping of capabilities and missions.

Furthermore, we must recognize that the Air Force is not the only service involved in the airlift business. If we define airlift as "transportation by air," it is clear that--whatever terms they use for them--all services currently fly airlift aircraft. Thus, in designing a theater airlift fleet for the future, we should do one of the following: (1) design it generically and then divide it up among the services or (2) define the service roles for airlift and their try to ensure that the individual service's aircraft are designed to fulfill those roles. I will use the latter approach, and I will focus on the Army and the Air Force on the assumption that they are the biggest users and providers of theater airlift. (Normally, Marine and Navy requirements will either be met by aircraft designed for Army-Air Force users, or the requirements will be so particular that the way to meet them will be with service unique aircraft.)

Army-Air Force
Responsibilities for Airlift

Attempts to divide responsibility for airlift between the Army and Air Force have a long and frequently bloody history. Criteria have included range, payload, and the technology-based Johnson-McConnell Agreement of 1966, which gave fixed-wing airlift to the Air Force and rotary-wing to the Army. This division worked well for the Vietnam era, but it does not work so well for the present, let alone the future. For example, what about the V-22 Osprey? Is it a fixed-wing or a rotary-wing aircraft?

An Army-Air Force Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Manned Aircraft Systems dated 15 May 1986 superseded the Johnson-McConnell Agreement and used broader guidelines. The MOA states that the Army will normally be the "executive service" (developing and operating service) for "manned aircraft systems that are designed to be operated and sustained in units organic to a land force and employed ... within the land force commander's area of operations." The Air Force will normally be the executive service for "manned aircraft systems that are designed to be most effective when organized under centralized control for theater-wide employment."2

Applying these criteria specifically to airlift and trying to tighten them up just a little bit, I am suggesting an organizationally based division of responsibilities. Airlift designed to support corps and smaller unit requirements should be Army while airlift support for echelons above corps should be Air Force. Obviously, this definition is fuzzy in application (how big is a corps sector?), but it gives us a logical yardstick without locking us into a technology-based box. The assumption is that most intracorps airlift missions will be Army, usually relatively short and light, and frequently requiring rather quick response. It is at echelons above corps that most Air Force and other service requirements arise (along with Army requirements), and these missions tend to be bigger, longer, and a little less immediate. Of course, there are exceptions, but these can be treated as such.

Definition of Requirements

Having agreed to design a fleet of aircraft and having determined at least roughly how to determine service responsibility, we are ready to face the big issue of requirements. What do we need the fleet to do? Unfortunately, defining requirements suffers at the outset from a semantic problem. The term requirements, when applied to acquisitions, is a classic example of bureaucratic elasticizing of the English language. A Department of Defense (DOD) requirement can mean anything from "something we are quite confident we really have to have in order to ensure battlefield success" to "something we sure would like to have if no one would fuss too much about it."

If theater commanders were asked to describe the capabilities they would really like for a future theater airlifter, they would probably reply something like this: "We want a cheap, compact, totally self-loading aircraft, which flies at Mach 2.5, is invisible, can carry a tank platoon in a single lift, and lands in a cow pasture without stirring up the manure." Unfortunately, it is unlikely that such a machine will be produced in the lifetime of our grandchildren. So we have to set our sights a little lower.

Technological Possibilities

In the discussion that follows, I have tried not to exaggerate requirements. Instead I have consciously decided to design a theater airlift fleet that can do well what I think it really has to do and can also do fairly well what I think it would ideally do. But in considering the realm of wishful thinking, I have given heavy consideration to cost and technological risk. In this regard, the work done for the ATTMA study has been very helpful.

By giving us a fairly good idea both of technological possibilities and relative costs, the ATTMA study has provided the data to make some realistically based, cost-benefit, trade-off decisions. Based on ATTMA inputs, it is fair to say that a few basic generalizations can be made. Using the C-130 as a baseline, we could produce a newly designed theater airlifter with improved capabilities but without substantial cost or technological risk that would

There are also other areas where substantial improvement is possible but at significant increases in cost and technological risk:

There is no ATTMA study dealing as specifically with future potentials for rotary-wing systems, but it appears that increases in payloads up to more than twice that of the CH-47 with concurrent 50-100 percent increases in range are possible. However, these improvements would be gained at the expense of a substantial increase in size, equal or lower speeds, and a substantial increase in cost. Another problem is "disk loading," which is a technical name for "blowdown" or "rotor wash." These larger load helicopters would likely develop two to four times the disk loading of the CH-47.5 By inclusion of onboard ECM, large, rotary-wing airlift aircraft could also be made significantly more survivable than current systems. However, this addition will be costly, and its effectiveness is open to question.

These possibilities lead to some conclusions that are reflected in both the rotary. and fixed-wing fleet designs:

Rotary Wing

Fixed Wing

Armed with pertinent technological information, we are now ready to plunge into determination of requirements with some idea of the boundaries of the possible, But we have another problem-a standard problem faced by anyone who is forced to look very far into the future. We do not really know how, where, or by whom future wars are going to be fought, nor do we know what weapon systems we will fight them with. For purposes of this article, 2010 is the target year. There is no special reason for that specific year, but it gets us far enough out that we could reasonably expect to design and acquire new airlift systems by then, but not so far out that our crystal ball gazing will not at least have a fair possibility of being relatively accurate. It also is in the time frame that will be addressed in the Army's developing futures concept, "Army 21." The following are the major assumptions I have made about the AirLand battlefield of 2010 that bear on my choices for a theater airlift fleet:

In sum, AirLand Battle 2010 will not be radically different from AirLand Battle today, but it will be more fluid and more lethal. Airlift will be required more than ever to provide rapid, responsive, nonterrain-restricted mobility for forces at both the tactical and operational levels of war. It will also be heavily involved in sustainment of these forces. It will have to operate to some degree throughout the battlefield while facing increased threats.

Now let us consider the proposed fleet itself. My discussion focuses on capabilities of the aircraft, primarily as they relate to user needs. In the case of any new aircraft, there would obviously also be improvements in capabilities that would make it easier, more efficient, and more effective to fly and maintain; but these are airlift provider concerns beyond the scope of this article. Since any airlift aircraft is a flying truck, the main criteria for designing it must always be what the users of the truck need it to do for them.

Army Airlift Fleet

The Army fleet should consist, as it does today, entirely of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft. There are at least two reasons for this requirement. First, corps or smaller elements frequently will not be able to collocate with an airstrip. Second, it would be more efficient in terms of training and maintenance to keep most Army aviation VTOL. A portion of the fleet should be focused on small, clearly internal Army requirements, such as those currently performed by utility and observation helicopters. It is not necessary in this discussion to suggest designs for this part of the Army airlift fleet since it is solely Army business.

It is at the level of medium or heavy lift (the currently proposed advanced cargo aircraft) that Army requirements and potential capabilities start to have a major impact on the design of the overall theater airlift fleet. The ACA should be sized to carry about a platoon of infantry or three to four 463L system pallets internally, or about 25,000-30,000 pounds externally. A combat radius of 150 nautical miles (NM) under standard operating conditions with the above loads would be sufficient. This range would enable it to cover a corps sector in most theaters. It should also be able to lift loads as heavy as armored guns or infantry-fighting vehicles distances of about 20 NM. This capability would increase its utility for logistics over-the-shore operations and--equally important--would facilitate assault crossings of rivers or other narrow obstacles.

The ACA would gain survivability primarily by flying low, avoiding the enemy, maintaining ballistic tolerance, and improving crash worthiness. It would have heat shielding and ECM to improve its survivability against IR missiles. A few aircraft used for more exotic missions may include some additional ECM equipment, but--for the most part--ACAs would survive like an infantryman with a flak jacket and Kevlar: protect the vital parts, be able to take a few hits without dying, but mainly avoid being hit. Additionally, we gain fleet survivability by having lots of relatively cheap systems.7

Air Force Airlift Fleet

The Air Force fleet should consist of three types of aircraft: (1) a very-heavy-lift, fixed-wing aircraft (the C-17); (2) a heavy-lift, fixed-wing advanced theater transport (large ATT); and f3) a medium-lift, fixed-wing transport (small ATT). All Air Force airlifters should have the full range of airdrop and low-altitude parachute extraction system (LAPES) capabilities to include personnel, equipment, and cargo. They all should have locking rails to enable simple command release of loads. All should have inertial navigation systems. All should be capable of operations at night and in bad weather. All should be designed for speed and simplicity of onloading and offloading to include the capability to offload bulk loads in combat. All should be protected by heat shielding and onboard (or strap-on) ECM to allow fairly safe operations in areas threatened by low numbers of hand-held surface-to-air missiles, If required to fly in mid- to high-threat environments (as they sometimes will), these aircraft would limit attrition primarily by low-level flight, ballistic tolerance, threat avoidance, and external assistance for suppression of enemy air defense. All should provide nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) protection for the crew. It will probably not be feasible to provide NBC protection for the cargo compartment, but a major effort of development should be directed toward making the cargo compartment easy to decontaminate. None of the aircraft needs to be VSTOL.

Large Advanced Theater Transport

The workhorse of the fleet would be the large advanced theater transport (L-ATT), replacing the C-130 as it is phased out. It would be an improvement over the C-130 in two primary areas: larger payloads and shorter field capability. It would, nonetheless, be relatively simple and inexpensive. Its primary roles would be the deployment and employment of ground and air units at the operational level of war, and bulk sustainment of air and ground forces. The L-ATT would not be designed for a high degree of survivability in a mid- or high-threat environment, and it would seldom air-land within artillery range of the enemy. It would, in short, be a flying truck--simple, reliable, and very capable but clearly designed to do most of its work in rear or semi-protected, forward areas. Its length would allow it to carry the 155-mm towed howitzer--with prime mover--its payload to carry the multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), and its cross section to carry the Bradley fighting vehicle (in all cases, with a little extra room for growth). These capabilities would enable it to carry all the equipment of a light infantry division. The aircraft would also be able to carry Hawk and Vulcan air defense systems, many of the lighter pieces of engineer equipment, and most of the combat-service-support equipment designed to support mechanized forces.

The L-ATT would not carry main battle tanks, heavy engineer equipment, or heavy maintenance equipment. It would be nice if we could design the ATT to Carry these items also, but here we start to run into the technology barrier discussed above. To go much beyond a 60,000-pound payload, yet retain the STOL airfield capability desired, would mean a significant increase in cost. This capability would also require the aircraft to be much bigger, thus making it inefficient for smaller loads and causing ramp-space problems in many of the smaller assault strips, Considering these factors and recognizing that theater airlift moves of very heavy equipment will be relatively rare, we should limit the size of the L-ATT and depend on the C-17 to fill in when required (as discussed below). The L-ATT should be able to land on a 1,500-foot runway carrying the loads previously indicated, to include gravel and dirt strips at least as primitive as those currently used by the C-130. With these payloads, it should have a combat radius of at least 1,000 NM.8

Improved capability for self-loading cargo should also be a major feature of the L-ATT. Unquestionably, it should have a winch system and ramp/rollers carefully designed for ease of loading. It should be able to self-load and combat offload the standardized shipping containers increasingly used by the Army and Marine Corps.

Ideally, it would also have some form of overhead crane to pick up and set down bulk loads without material-handling equipment (MHE). This is an area for continued technological exploration. If possible without undue cost in dollars or payload reduction, this capability would make the ATT the airlift equivalent of the Army's new palletized loading system (PLS) (a self-loading truck). However, we should not accept too great a penalty for this capability. Unlike trucks, big aircraft don't back up into any old storage area to pick up a load: they need some form of airfield. Thus, for the most part, some type of MHE will be required to bring the load to the aircraft. Usually, that same MHE can also load the aircraft. (Incidentally, the ATT should definitely be able to drag on and push off the rack for the PLS since this feature will be increasingly important to the Army's transportation system. Current aircraft do not have this capability. Whether the rack should be modified or the L-ATT specially designed to handle the rack is an issue for the technologists to sort out.) The ATT should be our most effective airdrop aircraft, capable of command-selected, forced bundle delivery; airdrop of loads up to 60,000 pounds; and airdrop of personnel and equipment from the doors and ramp simultaneously.


At the higher end of the spectrum, the C-17 would supplement the L-ATT for any theater airlift missions except those requiring the ATT's very short, rough-field capability. As originally intended, the C-17 will be primarily a strategic airlifter, gradually replacing the C-141 as the workhorse of the strategic fleet. In comparison with the C-141, however, the C-17 will be a strategic workhorse with many theater capabilities. It will be rugged and capable of landing on airfields comparable to those currently used by C-130s. Consequently, it will eliminate some theater airlift requirements by strategic "direct delivery" of loads from CONUS to their final theater airlift destination.

MAC's plan to phase in the C-17 also assumes phaseout of some C-130s with the intention that C-17s coming into theater on strategic missions will frequently fly one or more theater "shuttles" before returning to CONUS. Therefore, C-17s will be routine players in future theater airlift and will actually increase total theater airlift capability, even with retirement of some C-130s. Additionally, large numbers of C-17s can sometimes be pulled from the strategic flow and temporarily concentrated in theater for major unit moves. Examples would be movement of a self-propelled artillery battalion, a Hawk battalion, or occasionally even battalions or brigades of heavy combat forces. C-17s would carry the outsized equipment while ATTs carry the rest.

Small ATT

A third Air Force aircraft is needed for efficiency in moving smaller loads, particularly in Support of low-intensity conflict (LIC). Many theater-level airlift missions require the range, speed, and operating costs of a fixed-wing aircraft but have loads too small to efficiently use the L-ATT. For example, such missions might include movement of 40 replacements forward to a division or brigade, movement of one or two aircraft or tank engines to a fighter base or Army depot, air evacuation of 30 patients from a corps evacuation hospital to a hospital in the theater rear, and so forth. The small advanced theater transport (S-ATT) would fill the role of today's C-23 in the European Distribution System and the role left unfilled in LIC environments (to the long consternation of successive CINCSOUTHs) by the retirement of the C-7 Caribou.

The design of this aircraft should be deliberately focused on the requirements of LIC in areas like Latin America, Africa, and parts of the Pacific. Its payload should include a 35-to-45-man rifle platoon, with weight and cross section determined by the high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV) with TOW antitank missile mounted (about 25,000 pounds) and length determined by the HMMWV with towed 105-mm howitzer. This capacity would enable it to move all the key combat equipment of a light infantry division, as well as the division's small emplacement excavator. Most frequently, however, the S-ATT would move companies and battalions (rather than divisions) in conflicts where small units make a big difference. Its combat radius with these loads should be at least 500 NM. It would be the primary theater air evacuation vehicle from the corps rearward and thus should be designed to facilitate quick conversion to an air-evac configuration. It should be able to airdrop personnel, an HMMWV, and container delivery system (CDS) bundles.

At least three key assumptions make this aircraft a cost-effective addition to the total airlift fleet:

Like the L-ATT, the S-ATT should be a relatively simple and inexpensive aircraft. It would not be highly survivable (without help) in a mid- to high-threat environment. It would normally be the first aircraft of choice for fixed-wing airlift in higher-threat environments simply because it would be small, cheap, and have a comparatively small payload. The S-ATT would thus be a somewhat less tempting target than the L-ATT or C-17 and would also, frankly, be more expendable.

Because the S-ATT is inexpensive and simple to operate, it would be easily transferable to less sophisticated third world allies. Its size and short-field capabilities suggest numerous commercial applications, so there is a high probability that it would be a militarized version of an off-the-shelf civilian aircraft (or perhaps more likely, the commercial versions would be civilianized versions of an aircraft designed for military specifications). It would have many strap-on packages, making it easily convertible into a command, control, and communications (C3) platform, psychological operations (PSYOPS) aircraft, and so forth. A gunship version would also be a logical possibility.

Large ACA Vice Small ATT

One of the most difficult choices concerning the total airlift fleet is to recommend a comparatively small advanced cargo aircraft and fill the gap between its capabilities and the large advanced theater transport with a small ATT. If we had an ACA with substantially increased payload and range, it might be possible to eliminate the S-ATT altogether, which would have some obvious advantages. This type of decision making is an area where assumptions about technological potential are critical. Current evidence suggests that we cannot build a rotary-wing or tilt-wing/rotor airlifter with payloads approaching 30,000 pounds and combat radii of 400-500 NM without excessive cost, both in procurement and operation. Also, the problems with disk loading appear insurmountable. Thus, a somewhat more modest ACA coupled with a simple, cheap, fixed-wing STOL is the best that decision adds one more system to the fleet.

But it some technological breakthrough comes in this area and we do go to a large-load, long-range ACA in lieu of a small ATT, we have another question: Who should fly it--the Army, the Air Force, or both? I would vote Army on the grounds that a high percentage of its missions will be Army and that the aircraft will be VTOL, like all the other Army systems. However, if the Army were chosen to fly this aircraft, it must unequivocally accept a common-user responsibility for small- to medium-sized airlift missions. The Army would also have to structure its forces accordingly.

Special Operations Airlift

In 2010, as today, airlift support of special operations will present a dilemma for the budget-constrained designer of a theater airlift fleet. The basic lift requirements of SOF will approximate fairly closely the capabilities of the small ATT, but SOF support definitely needs a VTOL capability and needs to have vastly improved penetration survivability over the proposed S-ATT. It is also desirable that an SOF theater airlifter be pressurized and be able to handle near-strategic deployment legs. (If push came to shove, however, that part of an SOF mission could be met by strategic or commercial aircraft.)

Unfortunately, I see no option other than designing one or two airlifters specifically for the SOF mission. If possible, the same frame used for conventional airlift would be modified for SOF. Since VTOL capability is a requirement, the aircraft would have to be a modified ACA in the fleet described here for perhaps an improved V-22). If we could get the range and payload required out of this aircraft, we could eliminate a fixed-wing SOF theater airlifter altogether. If we do need a fixed-wing, the obvious candidate would be the small ATT, modified like today's MC-130. Either way, the design of the ACA and/or the small ATT should consider convertibility for SOF.


There it is--one man's stab at making a snowball out of quicksilver. There are a few key decisions reflected in my fleet design, any one of which is open to challenge, and successful challenge of any could lead to significantly different fleet designs. Among those decisions were the following:

Finally, we do need to get serious about future theater airlift planning. A letter like the one at the beginning of this article, for all its nostalgic appeal, would reflect some serious shortcomings in our preparations for future warfare. There comes a time when, even if the basic job hasn't changed dramatically, the possibilities of doing that job a lot better have changed dramatically, and it is both operationally and economically foolish not to get something new. The time to get serious in determining what that something new should or should not be is now.


1. In using ideas or data from ATTMA, I have tried to generalize from volumes of data that are often very specific. With two exceptions, I have not footnoted sources since the ideas in this paper are usually a conglomeration of thoughts from many sources.

2. Department of the Army/Department of the Air Force Memorandum of Agreement on Manned Aircraft Systems, 15 May 1986.

3. This is a generalization based on the data in ATTMA. Each of the three contractors in the study provided a number of notional aircraft designs. Their specific proposals differ in many ways. They all agree, however, that improvements in engine and lift technology would enable them to build an airlifter with a substantially bigger payload without significant increase in size ever the C-130. Those desiring access to the ATTMA study should contact Aeronautical Systems Division/XR, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio 45433.

4. There is much difference of opinion on the issue of low-observable (LO) design. Everyone involved in ATTMA agrees that a large LO aircraft can be built. But there is considerable debate on the extent to which the radar cross section can be reduced and the significance of radar-directed threats to airlifters. I also confess a certain amount of skepticism. I don't know exactly how, but as a layman I have a sneaking suspicion that the technologists specializing in shooting down airplanes will develop new ways of doing so before too long and thus will negate much of the benefit currently gained by LO construction.

5. Bob Chisolm, Boeing Wichita, telephone interview with author on 5 May 1988. Chisolm has been working on comparison between rotary-wing, tilt-wing, and fixed-wing airlift systems in the 30,000-50,000-pound payload category.

6. This assumption, of course, is easily challenged, but it is the best we can make at this time. We can be fairly confident that we will still fight with tanks, artillery, infantry-fighting vehicles, armored gun systems, helicopters, and so forth. We know that these systems will change, but we don't yet know how they will change. At some time, though, we will have to make a decision. We will have to size the box and payloads of future theater airlifters around current programmed systems, adding a small margin for expansion if possible. Since the decision point is now for this article and since the characteristics of most twenty-first century ground systems are still very speculative, I have chosen to assume that future systems will be about as big and heavy as their existing counterparts (e.g., a future infantry-fighting vehicle will have about the same weight and cube as the current Bradley).

7. Some may note that I have not mentioned the V-22--the new tilt-rotor, aircraft coming soon into the Marine inventory. The reason is that I don't think the V-22, as currently designed, is a good buy for the Army. It just doesn't do enough things more or better than the UH-60 or CH-47 to make it worth the money or effort to add it to the inventory. However, that does not mean that there is no future for tilt-engine or tilt-wing airlift. These types of craft have the advantages of speed, range, endurance, and lower fuel consumption over helicopters and the advantage at VSTOL over fixed-wing. It is very possible that either the utility or the medium-lift aircraft of the future Army fleet might be tilt-engine/wing. But if so, it should be simpler, cheaper, and have greater capability than the V-22. The V-22 is the Model A of it tilt-engine airlift. The Marines may be able to make good use of it for over-the-horizon, ship-to- shore operations. But the Army ought to let the Marines work out the bugs and then consider the Model B or C version when it comes along.

8. A key issue in determining the L-ATT payload may be the development of the armored family of vehicles (AFV). If the AFV includes light and heavy versions, if the basic light version is some form of armored fighting vehicle, and if it weighs in at not much more than 30 tons, it would make sense to design the ATT to carry this load. However, if light AFVs get much heavier than 30 tons, they will weigh themselves out of routine theater airlift, depending instead on as-required airlift by C-17s.

9. The reason for making the S-ATT a 1,000-foot STOL is not that there are large numbers of identifiable airfields in the 1,000-foot-or-less category--ATTMA-related studies suggest there are not. Rather, there will be many roads, fields, stretches of highway, or sections of damaged airfields that will be inaccessible even to the 1,500-foot L-ATT. In fact, a VSTOL capability in this aircraft could be highly desirable. The assumption of this article is that technology will not be able to produce a cost-effective and operationally simple VSTOL airlifter with the required range and payload by the early twenty-first century. The focus of VSTOL technology development, however, should be on an aircraft of about the size of the S-ATT rather than that of the V-22 or L-ATT.


Col Alexander P. Shine USA (USMA; MA, Harvard University) is a faculty instructor in the Department of Corresponding Studies at the US Army War College. An infantry officer who served two tours in Vietnam, he has commanded an infantry training battalion and served as deputy director and then director of the MAC-TRADOC Airlift Concepts and Requirements Agency at Scott AFB, Illinois. Colonel Shine is a graduate of Army Command and General Staff College.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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